disaster drill, 11/15/12

Fairfield-Suisun Public Safety Academy eighth grader Jaden Caragan, left, 13, gets into his role as a teenager injured in a collapse of the mall as Heather Venezio, trauma program director and a nurse at NorthBay Medical Center, works to triage other teens during a disaster preparedness drill, Thursday. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

Solano County

Emergency crews deal with aftermath of mock quake

By From page A1 | November 16, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Angela Modrich lay in a NorthBay Medical Center bed, in reality quite well, but with bloody makeup on her face and arms and a popsicle stick protruding from her upper right chest.

The 17-year-old Fairfield High School student and 300 other people participated in an earthquake drill Thursday morning. Modrich supposedly had been working in a warehouse when the quake hit and among other things got impaled by a metal object – the popsicle stick was the stand-in – and had to make her way to the hospital.

Modrich could imagine how she’d be responding if this “what if” situation was reality.

“I would probably be panicked,” she said. “But then you have to collect yourself and realize, you have to stay calm.”

Emergency medical officials across the state on Thursday practiced doing just that. They prepared how to handle a disaster that would strain the emergency medical system with the sheer volume of human suffering.

Solano County Emergency Medical Services, county Public Health, the county’s hospitals and fire stations and other agencies participated in the local drill. Scott Haskins and Michael Modrich of county Emergency Medical Services explained the scenario.

A large quake devastated the Bay Area three days earlier. Solano County got rocked, too, but not as badly and the hospitals remained intact to serve injured people from both this county and other counties. Then, to top things off, the Solano Town Center mall collapsed.

“The hope is by testing all of this, we can get an idea what areas need to be improved,” said Michael Modrich, who is Angela’s father.

More than 50 eighth-graders from the Fairfield-Suisun Public Safety Academy came to participate. The academy is a Fairfield-Suisun School District school that prepares children for careers in law enforcement, firefighting and emergency response.

They gathered at the Solano Town Center parking lot at about 8 a.m. to have makeup applied by people from Travis Air Force Base and Blake Austin College in Vacaville. They received envelopes containing information on their particular imaginary injuries.

Fairfield School Resources Officer Larry Banks told the children to play their roles, within reason. He demonstrated by dragging a leg as though injured.

“You get to be actors,” he said.

The children then walked across the street to NorthBay Medical Center, with their bloody makeup making them look like a group of Halloween ghouls. They lay on the cement outside the emergency room entrance, moaning, looking dazed and holding injured limbs.

NorthBay Medical Center officials did triage to decide who needed to be treated first. Robert Meadows, with his pale skin and blue lips, got wheeled through hospital corridors and up to the rooms reserved for the most seriously injured. His roommate was Christian Junio, who had an arm made up with a bloody sore that looked like melted wax.

Dr. Michael Casares participated in the drill, though he had to balance that with looking after real patients. These type of drills prepare the hospital for handling a large volume of patients and managing its resources in such a situation, he said.

“We’re hoping the day never comes,” he said. “But you just never know.”

Several of the children said they can imagine a disaster on this scale really happening in Solano County.

“Sure,” Trevor Smith said. “California is such an earthquake state. I figure it could possibly happen.”

Nayeli Plascencia agreed that the drill could become reality.

“It’s really believable,” she said. “Earthquakes happen and we always have to be ready for whatever happens.”

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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